Wednesday, 24 May 2017
Department of Education and Skills
55. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if he is satisfied with the progress made on the development of a technical university for the south-east region since the TUSE project was initiated in 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24671/17]
The Technological University for the South-East (TUSE) project was initiated in 2011 and consists of a consortium of two Institutes of Technology; Institute of Technology Carlow (ITC) and Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT).
The TUSE consortium made good progress initially and submitted a Stage 1 expression of interest in 2012. However, following this initial promising start, the consortium encountered a series of challenges and difficulties and did not succeed in finalising a Stage 2 Plan prior to the decision by WIT to suspend all merger activities in October 2014.
Following the publication of the Kelly report, a preliminary facilitation process which was recommended in the Report has been completed. There was strong engagement in the process by both parties and this facilitation process has been an important building block in terms of building trust between the parties and in developing a strong working relationship between the Presidents and Chairs of both institutions. As part of this, the Presidents of the two institutions, have jointly developed an initial work-plan to support the development of a joint TU proposal.
In addition to this both Institutions made a joint presentation and submission to the Higher Education Authority (HEA), seeking funding to underpin the next phase of engagement. This was part of the latest call issued by the HEA regarding the restructuring of the higher education landscape. The call sought submissions for funding support in respect of the costs arising from mergers as part of the implementation of the National Strategy for Higher Education.
Arising from the submissions received and subsequent detailed presentations made to the HEA, the TUSE project were allocated a ring-fenced sum of €1.445 Million in 2016 to support the further development of the project (€400,000 of this was provided to consortium in November 2016 for 2017 work on project).
The key merger objectives to be funded are:-
- A re-engagement plan, agreed by both Institutes.
- The publication of an agreed vision and values for a TUSE.
- Fostering a high level of staff and stakeholder engagement to help design the future TU.
- Developing a Regional Stakeholder Forum to underpin the potential of this new Institution to exert a transformational impact on the region by interacting very closely with stakeholders throughout its formative stages;
- External support to facilitate and support change management.
The Technological Universities Bill, which was published in December 2015, is to give effect to the recommendations set out in the National Strategy for Higher Education with regard to the IOT sector, including the development of a new technological university model. In addition, the Bill provides for a number of important reforms to the governance and operation of the existing institutes of technology.
In relation to the legislation, the third Government Legislative Programme of this Partnership Government was published on 17 January 2017, and the Technological Universities Bill is listed on the Dáil Order Paper and is awaiting Committee Stage.
When I became Minister for Education and Skills, I recognised that there were a significant number of matters raised previously in respect of the Bill at both Committee and Report Stage. A process of consultation has been underway with all of the relevant stakeholders in relation to both the matters raised during the legislative process and the commitments contained in the Programme for Government.
Following the finalisation of this consultation process I intend to advance the legislation having determined a position in relation to any matters raised as part of this consultation process.